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TPE: Emblem 2

ICONOLOGY. Learning to capture the identifying gesture and attributes of the wide image in an emblem has as relay an ancient tradition.

This pictorial tradition can be traced back to an engraving by Marc Antonio. It shows an almost naked woman of Giorgionesque type watering a flower. This enigmatic motif can be explained with the help of the literary tradition. It is a symbol of “Grammatica.” As the plant grows through watering so the young mind is formed through the study of grammar. In late antiquity grammar became the foundation of the liberal arts.
Rudolf Wittkower, Allegory and the Migration of Symbols, Thames and Hudson, 1977.Wittkower inventories some of the related features associated with Grammar in her allegorical representations: “an old woman carrying a vessel which is supposed to contain medicine for correcting the children’s pronunciation and a knife for sharpening their defective tongues. She also holds a file, with which the grammatical mistakes can be removed.” Ultimately, the watering of the flower became the chief motif of the allegory.


–Artist Appropriations.With the renewed interest in allegory associated with postmodernism, contemporary artists have brought photography to bear on the tradition of iconology, as in this work.

“The Tears of Concupiscence”
from the series Imprese by Olivier Richon
Other Than Itself: Writing Photography Eds. John X. Berger and Olivier Richon, Cornerhouse Publications, 1989.

How would you picture “ardent, sensuous longing” (lust)?

–From the Archive:

Here is one example of an emblem, taken from Geffrey Whitney’s Choice of Emblemes, published in Leiden by Christopher Plantin in 1586. It is the first full-fledged English emblem book in the continental style, and uses woodblocks from a number of other emblem books, the most important of which is Alciato’s Emblematum liber. (

Dissidia inter aequales, pessima
(Disputes among equals are the worst)

The Swallowe swifte, dothe beare unto her neste
The Grasshopper, that did no daunger feare,
For that shee thought, the lov'de togeather beste,
Bycause they both, observ'de one time of yeare,
  And bothe, did joye theire jarring notes to sounde,
  And neare the house they bothe, theire dwellings founde.

Yet time, and tune, and neighbourhood forgotte,
For perfect frende, a tyrant shee became,
Which taxeth those, whome God dothe heare allotte
Like gifts of grace, to winne a lasting name,
  Yet Envie soe theire vertues doth deface,
  It makes them foes, to them theie should imbrace.
2018-07-29T19:01:34+00:00 July 29th, 2018|Categories: Art, Tutorials, Wide Image|Tags: , , , |

Theopraxesis: Gauguin

Capability.  As these posts accumulate across an expanding set of categories, it is important to recall the focus of KE. Konsult learns the writing of the disaster in three dimensions: heuretics (invention), wide image (mystory), theopraxesis (capability). So far we have assumed some disaster addresses us, and devoted our attention to the heuretics of mystory, learning how to design an image of wide scope, source of our original hypothesis responding to disaster. Konsult takes up for electracy an ancient, even primordial drama: the striving to persist in one’s own being (to live), that Spinoza called Conatus, against the Overwhelming force of resistance, entropy, death. Heidegger characterized the drama as Riss, exploiting as was his craft German vocabulary, finding a term that means both Rift (split, break) and design (drawing). The drama of living derives from an irreducible opposition between Earth and World (nature and culture). Konsult is rift design (an assertion that must be developed elsewhere), taking up this enigmatic primordial experience of resistance encountered through living. Norbert Weiner, one of the inventors of cybernetics, defined life simply as anything that was negentropic, whether man or machine. We need to include in the drift of our posts a review of human capabilities, virtues, powers, the potentiality of egents which through education is realized in the service of well-being, thriving, living against disaster.

–Gauguin in Tahiti. An important part of KE is advisory to colleagues experimenting with transitions from literacy to electracy, adapting alphabetic curriculum and pedagogy to digital metaphysics. Posts up to now have referenced various canonical figures practicing the poetics of popcycle, mystory, wide image. The basic proposal for transition into electracy is just to reframe the curriculum within heuretics, to engage with it (following the advice of Roland Barthes)  not in terms of what it means, but how it was made. This is the fundamental lesson of the avant-garde arts, relative to the new purpose of electracy which is not to communicate a meaning (literacy does that), but to access a visceral memory that otherwise remains inchoate. The practical point is that the entire curriculum manifests a continuous engagement with the three fundamental capabilities, intellectual virtues, human faculties, first defined by the Classical Greeks (Aristotle). These are the negentropic faculties or powers that are potential in every person, beginning in a state of impotence, with the mission of education being actualization of world.

–The Three Questions. Gauguin, for example. Literate schooling studies the likes of Gauguin, Momaday, Sebald, Heidegger. The heuretic frame shifts the role of these exemplars to relay: egents are positioned not as students observing from the outside some body of information, but as receivers of a tradition (tradition is Avatar, konsult is Gita (Song) by means of which egent receives the totality of what tradition knows). Let Gauguin’s masterpiece serve as emblem for a catechism fundamental to the Western tradition (Hal Foster in Prosthetic Gods proposed that this work represented the catechism of Modernism). The title consists of three questions: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? These questions anchor our fundamental theme: orientation, and how it is modalized in electracy. The work must be placed in its situation, since the implicit question always is: what is that for me? Gauguin’s state of mind in Tahiti in 1897 was despair, disillusionment exacerbated by debt and illness (the primitive paradise he had imagined disappeared a hundred years before he arrived). Gauguin decided on suicide, but wanted first to paint a testament. The scene of this wall-sized tableau is a narrative, developing from right to left, the movement representing the vector of life and death (Derrida’s trace).

The upper corner chrome yellow (like damaged fresco). To the right below sleeping baby three seated women, two figures dressed in purple confide their thoughts. Enormous crouching figure (intentionally violated perspective) raises its arm and looks in astonishment at these two people who dare to think of their destiny. A figure in the center is picking fruit. Two cats near a child. A white goat. An idol, both arms rhythmically raised seem to indicate the Beyond. A crouching girl seems to listen to the idol and lastly an old woman approaching death appears reconciled to her thoughts. She completes the story. At her feet a strange white bird holing a lizard in its claws, represents a futility of words. The setting is  the bank of a stream in the woods. In the background the ocean, and beyond, the mountains of a neighbboring island. In spite of changes of tone, the landscape is blue and veronese green from one end to the other. The naked figures stand out against it in bold orange. If anyone said to the students competing for the Rome Prize at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the picture you must paint is to represent Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? what would they do?  (Paul Gauguin, in a letter).

Yes, that question is addressed to us, egents of the EmerAgency.

2018-07-28T15:28:22+00:00 July 27th, 2018|Categories: Art, Capability, Orientation, Theopraxesis|Tags: , , , |


5) Recognition. The kind of memory specifically supported in electracy is discussed in Konsult: Theopraxesis using the example of Marcel Proust’s involuntary memory (the event of remembrance when Marcel tasted the biscuit dipped in tea). Roland Barthes referred to the punctum or sting of recognition he experienced when viewing certain photos. This event of recognition signals the operation of intuition, the intelligence accessing deep memory formed during the visceral education of disposition in childhood. This visceral orientation is not accessed directly, but informs judgments of taste (Kant), of action in prudence (phronesis), constituting the thymotic dimension of all decision. The discovery of konsult is that mystory enables theopraxesis (integrated thought-action-imagine), mise-en-machine of visceral attraction-repulsion (passional intelligence). This logic of orientation is called flash reason, conductive inference, structured in the manner of poetic epiphany, adaptive for real-time augmented smart space. We will address this rhetoric throughout KE.

–Antonio Damasio: Context for flash reason, used in the composition and design of mystory.


In his most recent book (Self Come to Mind), the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio discusses the human capacity to recognize one’s  own being in features of the external world (natural and cultural things, events, works).  The world offers us a mirror in which to track the turns of our identity.  He offers an example of his own experience of this capacity.

It is an object that has helped him construct, interpret, ponder and crystallize his identity, or at least his idea of it. It came to him in the early 1970s, when he was in medical school at the University of Lisbon. The sculpture, made by a woman he had just begun dating (a fellow neuroscience student and a sculptor named Hanna Costa), is a little terra-cotta figure of a man seeming to fight his way forward in a storm. And it all but cried out to Dr. Damasio with a mysterious urgency.

“Somehow I felt that it was me, or belonged to me,” he recalled. “Even though she had done it before we met.”

The doctor was even more convinced that it was a sculpture of his favorite boyhood hero: Tintin, the boyish blond reporter and detective whose comic-book adventures, written by Georges Remi (a k a Hergé) from the 1930s to the early 1980s, delighted generations of European children. Dr. Damasio was one of them, having found endless inspiration in Tintin’s feats of derring-do and the restlessly inquisitive mind that dispatched mystery after mystery with faultlessly astute reasoning and a killer right punch.

In a review of Damasio’s book, Ned Block pointed to one significant area of disagreement, not with Damasio’s example, but with how the capacity  is interpreted.  It reflects not so much “self-consciousness” as “phenomenal” consciousness, related to Merleau-Ponty’s “flesh.”

But there is also a different kind, as anyone who knows what it is like to have a headache, taste chocolate or see red can attest. Self-consciousness is a sophisticated and perhaps uniquely human cognitive achievement. Phenomenal consciousness by contrast — what it is like to experience — is something we share with many animals. A person who is drunk or delirious or dreaming can be excruciatingly conscious without being wakeful, self-aware or aware of his surroundings. (Block)

For the purposes of flash reason this disagreement is beside the point.  It is important rather to mark this capacity as precisely the capacity augmented in the electrate apparatus, whose skill set is flash reason managing dromosphere information sprawl.  The funtion of measure in image metaphysics is this event of recognition (belonging to me).

2018-07-20T15:25:48+00:00 July 20th, 2018|Categories: Art, Design, Intuition, Memory, Mystory, Orientation, Theopraxesis, Tutorials, Visceral|Tags: , , |


 6) Memory Exercise: Kandinsky.  As illustrated by the careers of productive people, at some point an interviewer will ask about an early memory from childhood. Mystory may adopt such interviews–the kind of things people want to know about the sources and motivations of creativity–as a guide to identify similar resources in one’s own biography to bring into the wide image matrix. Exercise: read an interview with a creative person of interest, inventory the questions asked, and answer them in your own case.

In Pictorial Nominalism, Thierry de Duve describes the autobiography of Wassily Kandinsky, one of the inventors of abstract painting, in a way that resonates with the theory of the image of wide scope.

    • In Ruckblicke (Reminiscences) Kandinsky relates his memories of several aesthetic experiences that he judges retrospectively to have been crucial and that he endows with all the inner necessity required to have justified his passage to abstraction. […] One is a memory dated from adolescence, which deals with the being and name of color and which Kandinsky describes with a fervent lyricism that gives it the value of a true revelation: “As a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old boy, I gradually saved up enough money to buy myself a paintbox containing oil paints. I can still feel today the sensation I experienced then–or, to put it better, the experience I underwent then–of the paints emerging from the tube. One squeeze of the fingers, and out came these strange beings, one after the other, which one calls colors–exultant, solemn, brooding, dreamy, self-absorbed, deeply serious, with roguish exuberance, with a sigh of release, with a deep sound of mourning, with defiant power and resistance, with submissive suppleness… Living an independent life of their own, with all the necessary qualities for further, autonomous existence, prepared to make way readily, in an instant, for new combinations, to mingle with one another and create an infinite succession of new worlds.” This sentence is pivotal in more than one way. By its position in the book, it acts as a hinge in time allowing two other memories to fold onto one another. The first, an archaic one, is the childhood memory with which the text of Reminiscences opens and that gives to the title all the phantasmatic weight of a “primal scene”: “The first colors to make a powerful impression on me were light juicy green, white, carmine red, black, and yellow ochre. These memories go as far back as the age of three.”

2018-07-17T14:55:10+00:00 July 17th, 2018|Categories: Art, Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , |